Mayor Bloomberg’s Regrets
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It’s hard to see the logic of Mayor Bloomberg mounting a campaign for president after the apology he issued over the weekend in respect of his crackdown on crime in New York City. In a speech at a Christian center in Brooklyn, Mr. Bloomberg expressed his regret over the program known as stop and frisk, which helped break the back of crime in New York. “I was wrong, and I am sorry,” the former mayor keened.
That was a stunning moment, in our view. Heretofore, the mayor was a strong backer of the stop and frisk strategy, under which hundreds of thousands of youths, most of them minorities, were stopped, questioned, and frisked. He argued that the vast majority of the victims of gun crime in New York City were members of the minority community, as were the majority of the perpetrators.
Mr. Bloomberg, writing in the Washington Post, among other places, excoriated the federal judge who ruled that his program was unconstitutional. The courts eventually forced an end to the program as it was pursued by Mr. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly. Yet we have long admired Mr. Bloomberg’s preparedness to defend the NYPD.
The Sun is no expert in police work. The court ruling against stop and frisk, though, long struck us as unjust — tarring a magnificent police force with bigotry. We’d have confined such rulings to individual cases. The court ruling might have been overturned on appeal, but the appeal was dropped, after Mr. Bloomberg left office, by the de Blasio administration.
What’s at issue now is how all this fits into Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions. His opening, if he has — or had — any, would be on the centrist side of what’s left of the Democratic Party. It has been beckoning since Vice President Biden began to flounder. The ex-veep himself started apologizing for all sorts of deeds (failing to defeat Clarence Thomas, say) that now shock the Democratic Party.
This is an opening for a Democratic candidate who will come in with an unapologetically centrist campaign — a defense of capitalism, moderate taxation, a strong foreign policy. And who has the character, the grit to stick with it. If Mr. Bloomberg can’t even stand up for his signature policing program, how is he going to be able to defend the rest of the kind of platform on which he three times won a mandate to govern New York City from the center?
The political sage John Fund, writing in National Review, suggests that Mr. Bloomberg’s political consultants have been telling him that a shift to the left is necessary to gain the Democratic nomination. “But,” Mr. Fund warns, “while polls can pick up voter attitudes on issues, they cannot always detect shifts in people’s opinion of a candidate’s character.”
What, in any event, a contrast with President Trump. A contest between Messrs Bloomberg and Trump would feature a candidate, in Mr. Trump, who won’t apologize for anything, even when he’s wrong, against a candidate who, in Mr. Bloomberg, is prepared to apologize for his signature political achievement, even when it was right. And to do so merely to appease the leftists in a political party with which he doesn’t really agree.
If the price of advancement within the Democratic field is the kind of apology Mr. Bloomberg has just made, the better strategy would have been to stick to his guns and run as an independent. Or to have stuck with the GOP and run the kind of campaign that secured him the mayoralty. The sad fact for him is that when he stood down in 2016, another New York billionaire stood up and now is the President.
This editorial has been expanded from an earlier edition to include the point made by John Fund.